FRTA earns national recognition for service during pandemic

  • A Franklin Regional Transit Authority (FRTA) bus at the John W. Olver Transit Center in Greenfield. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 11/3/2021 1:48:16 PM
Modified: 11/3/2021 1:48:22 PM

GREENFIELD — The Franklin Regional Transit Authority (FRTA) is one of six rural transit agencies that were recently recognized by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for their service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were very excited,” FRTA Administrator Tina Cote said of the agency’s receipt of the Connecting Rural Communities Award. “We were just happy to be nominated by MassDOT (the Massachusetts Department of Transportation).”

In particular, FRTA was recognized for launching its micro-transit program, FRTA Access, which provides same-day and next-day transportation throughout the region via a smartphone app, according to an FTA press release.

The micro-transit program, which initially began as a pilot program in 2019, was awarded $171,050 that year by MassDOT, allowing it to be extended. The program was expanded in February to include weekend service, and a sliding scale fare policy was implemented to promote equity.

“It’s taken off, and it’s being used better than anticipated,” Cote said. “It started out just assisting individuals who were not members of the general public, and now it’s open to the general public. … We couldn’t have anticipated it would operate this smoothly.”

People scheduling rides can be taken to destinations within four different zones on smaller curb-to-curb Demand Response buses. Demand Response is FRTA’s program for transporting people over the age of 60 and veterans who have more than a 70% disabled rating.

“Our hope is that when these discretionary funds run out, we can continue this program because it has been wildly popular,” Cote said.

According to the FTA press release, five transit agencies in Nebraska, Maryland, Montana, Texas and Mississippi were also recognized.

“From converting buses into vaccination clinics, to delivering meals to senior citizens and students, to bringing healthy groceries to food deserts and reaching underserved people, these six transit agencies and their workers went above and beyond,” FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez said in the statement. “Our agency is proud to support transit agencies around the country who are playing such essential roles in the communities they serve.”

The FTA has recognized agencies since 1985, the release states. This year’s Connecting Rural Communities awards recognize rural transit providers that have improved the mobility of Americans in rural areas, specifically serving their communities by providing “vital services” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cote said the award, though technically an Administrator’s Award, is actually a testament to the team effort at FRTA.

“Obviously (Assistant Administrator) Michael Perreault had a huge hand in this, and the managers right down to the drivers and the people who are using it,” she said. “We feel very proud of this.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.


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